Robert Horry turns 44 years-old today. We take a look back at two of his most memorable clutch performances.
In 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings faced off in the Western Conference Finals. Horry and the Lakers were looking for their third straight title, while the Chris Webber-led Kings were trying to get over the hump and make it to the Finals.
By Game 4, it appeared a changing of the guard in the West was upon us. The Kings were up 2-1 in the series, and stormed out to a 24-point first half lead against the Lakers in Game 4 at Staples Center. With a win, Sacramento would go up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, with two of the potential three remaining games at home. It would be an impossible hole for a team to climb out of, even this Lakers squad led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
In the second half, the Lakers slowly climbed back into the game. On the final possession, the Lakers still trailed by two. After failed shot attempts by Shaq and Kobe, Kings center Vlade Divac batted the ball out in what looked like the final sequence of the game. Except that Horry was standing right there at the top of the key, caught the loose ball, and in one continuous motion, hit a three-pointer to win the game at the buzzer:
In an oral history of the series earlier this year with Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams, Horry and coach Phil Jackson spoke about that sequence:
Horry: I was designing to be out there because I’m always going to go for the 3 to win. I don’t like that tie B.S. and going to overtime.
Phil Jackson: He always seemed to gravitate to the 3-point line in situations like that at the end of the game. We actually had him gravitate to those spots, corners and the top. There he was. It was a shot that really saved that series. We needed that burst of energy for our team.
Horry: The ball just happened to get to me perfect.
The Lakers would go on to win the series in seven games and sweep the New Jersey Nets to complete the three-peat. Meanwhile, the Kings would never come that close to making the Finals again. Horry’s shot helped vault Shaq and Kobe into the all-time historical greats by adding a three-peat to their resume, and also made sure Webber and the Kings would become one of the best teams that never won a championship.